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Nurse engagement strategies for the next generation

April 7, 2022
April 7, 2022

Millennial and Gen Z nurses now make up the majority of the nursing workforce. The pandemic resulted in record-high turnover in healthcare, including nursing. This, combined with the high cost associated with turnover, the expense and inefficiency of contract nursing services and the fact that nurses in these demographic categories tend to change jobs more frequently than their predecessors means that healthcare leaders need real strategies to create engagement with all nurses. Understanding the differences in generational needs will have to be part of the foundation for these strategies.

Who are they?

If we want to build successful engagement strategies with nurses in the millennial and Gen Z groups, we first have to understand who they are. In many ways they are similar to their predecessors and drivers of engagement will be quite similar between them and other demographic groups. The Healthcare Advisory Board1 conducted research that revealed one surprising difference though. While engagement and loyalty measures usually perform very similarly, younger nurses reporting high levels of engagement, were less likely to be loyal, particularly during the first three years of their tenure meaning that engagement strategies also need to be accompanied by loyalty strategies. The Advisory Board made some recommendations:

  • Develop dedicated and inventive programs that reward and recognize departments/units with low turnover rates.
  • Other research suggests that this group is more cautious and concerned than other demographic groups so creating a safe, civil environment where bullying is both actively identified and discouraged is important.
  • Create unit-based mentors to help new nurses connect with their work and their employer.
  • Encourage lateral mobility. These demographic groups embrace lateral moves as a means of learning more about their profession and gaining exposure to other specialties. Be intentional about creating opportunities for these kinds of moves to happen with strategies such as rapid responses to requests for transfers and formal career path events hosted by senior nursing leaders.

Expectations of a new generation - successful learning solutions

There is also research to suggest that the traditional means for training and education may not be entirely appropriate for this new generation of learners. For example, a traditional classroom approach is likely the least appealing for these groups.

Both groups are digitally savvy, with Gen Z being the first totally digital natives. Both are high consumers and heavy users of technology. They come to work and to school with the expectation that much if not all of the educational content will be available online and accessible to them at any time on their phones and tablets. It is also essential to remember to create content that can be accessed and used independently. These learners are pragmatic and more likely to embrace content that they see as practical and relevant.

While these digital natives may be similar to earlier generations of nurses, they are somewhat different in their educational needs. Incorporating technology, using adaptive learning techniques that will create a unique learning plan for each student and offering shorter modules that will fit easily into their schedules while helping them build skills and confidence should be part of every healthcare leaders plan for this generation of nurses.